9 bad reasons for a website redesign

4 min read
Brent Summers
  •  Jan 29, 2015
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It seems like companies decide they’re ready to redesign their website every 2 years or so. But it’s a lot of work! You have to gather a team, find an agency, identify stakeholders, write personas … You get the point.

Nevertheless, every 2 years or so, we labor and labor to redesign and launch a website. But once it’s live we don’t touch it. And this is just the wrong way to do things.

So before you kick off your next big redesign project, consider improving the site you already have.Twitter Logo And make sure you’re not redesigning for one of the following 9 reasons.

1. Your boss says it’s time to redesign

It’s possible your boss suffers from “design fatigue.” But that’s a purely internal viewpoint, a failure of empathy—new visitors to your homepage are seeing it for the first time.

All too often, a total redesign is a blanket solution to specific problems.Twitter Logo Instead of jumping on the redesign bandwagon, ask probing questions to focus in on what really needs improving. If your site’s slow, a technical (not creative) project may be in order. If it’s not generating enough leads, try experimenting with copy or color psychology to drive conversions.

Intentional, iterative changes can have a big impact on initial perception and performance of your website, without all the heavy lifting of a full redesign.

2. You need to start a blog

Congratulations, you’ve just earned a good website parent merit badge!

Don’t wait on a website redesign to start your blog. Implementing a new content strategy isn’t necessarily dependent on a new design. Content is something your audience can immediately interact with, providing invaluable data that will support better-informed designs in the future.

Whether you’re designing a multimillion-dollar startup, or a pool manufacturer’s one-pager, content comes first.

3. Flat design is cool now

Yes, flat design is here to stay. But dramatic drop shadows have come, and are mostly gone. Skeuomorphism may come back en vogue. Don’t let these sort of design trends affect your essence.

If you have a mature brand aesthetic, there’s no need to jump ship every time a digital equivalent to popping your collar comes along. You can stay fresh by updating assets within your website. Try out new trends on specific campaigns, such as landing pages or seasonal emails. Then you can better assess if those trends should really be adopted into your brand’s style.

4. You aren’t getting enough traffic

Traffic isn’t a great measure of design performance. Needing more traffic probably indicates issues with your acquisition strategy—not your website design. This is a good time to reference (and update) your personas.

Think of it this way: What kind of experience do you need to design to get noticed by your target market? It’s likely not a homepage. If they’re on your homepage, they’ve already noticed you.

A great website design can certainly increase engagement. You might get longer time on site, or more pages per visit, with a better design. If you need more visitors to your homepage, consider paid search, a crazy cool video campaign, or some other viral marketing stunt.

5. Your bounce rate is too high

Okay, I’ll admit it: if your bounce rate is high, you may actually need a website redesign. But don’t skimp on the easy-to-implement, incremental improvements that can dramatically reduce a user’s urge to exit.

For starters, try updating your copy, removing the main navigation (crazy talk!), or introducing parallax scroll to keep users on your page and drive them where you want them. If none of these things help with bounce rate, then it is time to discuss major design changes.

6. You’re getting a new content management system (CMS)

Don’t get me wrong: I firmly believe technical and creative teams should work to collaborate more, and more often. However, technical solutions and design projects don’t always have to be intertwined. If your company is updating their technology stack, that’s great—welcome to the modern web! Open-source, containerization, all that stuff is #winning.

Those technology projects are a lot of work in and of themselves. Leaving the design as-is will help your technical team complete the migration faster. Then begin the redesign process. That way, when it’s time to implement the new design, your technical team will be be more familiar with the new stack (there’s always a learning curve).

7. You just hired a new web designer

Smart move: investing in design. Adding a designer to your team brings another perspective to the problem-solving process. But rather than snowing them in with a complete redesign, immerse your new recruit in your company culture and creative ecosystem with a few small projects first.

Make smaller improvements and let your designer become more familiar with the problems you want help solving. These orientation projects will let your new designer conduct important design research, create company assets, and meet stakeholders. Getting to know the company and its culture will ultimately allow him or her to make better design decisions in the long run.

8. Your competition just launched one

Website redesigns are inherently risky. They require a lot of time, resources, and attention from many stakeholders, and with so many variables changing at once, it can be difficult to identify the root causes of performance issues at the finish.

If you need to keep up with the competition, try looking for opportunities to optimize the existing experience. Incremental design improvements can lead to exponential business results. Tweaking a headline or the location of a button are easy—and may yield immediate lift in your website’s performance.

9. Because a user complained

A frustrated customer is much more likely to express their dissatisfaction than a satisfied customer. I’m not suggesting that you ignore all complaints, but simply consider the customer’s perspective—were they on a mobile device, are they new or returning, did they stumble on your site in a sub-optimal way—and look for large-scale issues before launching into a redesign. A customer complaint just isn’t enough to go on.

Your users may tell you what they want. Your boss has awesome ideas. As a designer, you have to parse those requests and understand the motivations behind them.

What unmet need does that person have? Stated desires and demonstrated needs are not necessarily the same. Is there a problem with your website design and content, or perhaps its information architecture? Use tools like CrazyEgg or Qualaroo for customer development and to validate business challenges and hypotheses. Then use design to address what you learn.

Research can greatly improve the effectiveness of your design. Before diving in to a website redesign, ask a lot of questions. You may save you and your company a lot of time and resources.

The proper care and maintenance of websites

Websites aren’t meant to be built—they’re meant to be developed.

Think about your website as a living, evolving creation. Feed it with great content. Fill it with signposts that guide your visitors through its myriad micro-interactions. Teach it to care about your visitors’ needs. Over time, your little piece of the web might grow into a thriving digital experience—but only if you put some time into nurturing it.

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